Travel New Zealand

New Zealand: A beginner’s guide

New Zealand, or Aotearoa, the land of the long white clouds as the native Maori know it, is a small yet wonderful country in the southern hemisphere. Made famous by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, the awe-inspiring landscape of New Zealand attracts thousands of visitors each year who want to witness the true Middle Earth. However, this southern paradise is more than just natural landscape. From high end shopping to rural farmlands, from extreme sports and adventures to quiet lakeside strolls, and from colonial histories to indigenous Maori culture, New Zealand has it all. If you are interested in travelling to New Zealand, this guide will surely give you a taste of what New Zealand has to offer.

Visit Auckland

An epic trip in New Zealand for beginners would typically start with Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Situated at the top of the North Island, Auckland has both an international airport and a major seaport and serves as the gateway of New Zealand. Auckland has the hustle and bustle of a world class city, with large shopping malls, 5 star hotels and fine dining dotted along Queen Street in the CBD. It is also where you can find the Sky tower, the tallest structure in New Zealand stretching over 300 m up in the sky, offering breathtaking views of Auckland City and surrounds. For those that want to try their luck, the Skycity Casino underneath the Sky Tower offers 24 hours of casino fun, entertainment and great food and bar. For a romantic night out, head to the Mission Bay Waterfront, where you can have a scrumptious meal at one of the fine dining restaurants followed by a stroll on the beach under the moonlight, with the beautiful Port of Auckland as a backdrop. Auckland is also a heaven for shopaholics, with some of the largest shopping malls in the Southern Hemisphere such as St. Luke Westfields, Botany Town Centre and Sylvia Park offering everything and anything to satisfy your needs and wants.

Visit Auckland

Travelling south from Auckland for just under 3 hours you reach Rotorua, tourist hub of the North Island and home to Maori culture and geothermal pools. Two thermal villages, the Te Puia and Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, offer a one-stop-shop for travelers who have a limited time in Rotorua. These geothermal “theme parks” usually offer mud pools and geysers, thermal hotsprings as well as Maori performances at the marae (Maori tribal hall), covered by a single admission fee.It’s a good way to experience what Rotorua have to offer if time is limited. However, a more authentic experience might be to see these unique attractions separately, starting with a visit to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley where short or long hikes along colored mineral pools, giant geysers and volcanic mud pools can leave you awe-stricken for a good part of the day. This can be followed by a good soak at the Polynesian spa, where a large number of mineral pools of different sizes and temperature are on offer. Finish your day off with a hangi (traditional Maori feast) watching traditional Maori performances. For those that are more nature inspired, one can easily get to the mighty Mt Tarawera for a good hike, admiring the Giant Chasm and the crater lake of the now dormant volcano which once wreaked havoc in this region. For the adventurous type, a short drive to Lake Taupo, the second largest lake in the southern hemisphere, would give you a chance to enjoy numerous water activities such as sailing, windsurfing and game fishing.

Travel Wellington

From Rotorua going further south, we reach Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. Famous for its windy weather, Wellington is a hub for arts and culture. The many world class galleries would surely be enough to satisfy any art-savvy person. Wellington is also the home of Te Papa museum, the national museum of New Zealand, where you can spend a good part of the day looking at the many exhibitions, art and history collections, fossils and the giant colossal squid specimen. For a good view of the city, take the cable car up Wellington Botanic Garden, which offers a beautiful view of the city, and an exceptionally good spot for the sunset. Be sure to make a short de-tour on the way to see the Beehive, the parliament house and a well-known land mark of Wellington. After dark, head back to the Lambton Quay in the heart of the city to enjoy the world class restaurants and great bars.

Visit Christchurch

Crossing the Cook Straits either on a ferry or a flight, one gets to the South Island, where you can find the magnificent landscape of roaring rivers, rolling plains and formidable mountain ranges. Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island, and is the ideal place to start your South Island journey. Also known as the Garden City, Christchurch is famous for its gardens and parks, including Hagley Park, the largest park in the southern hemisphere. Even though the famous Cathedral Square has been rampaged by the recent earthquakes, Christchurch remains to be an upbeat city, with the many gardens and beaches still open for visitors. Christchurch is also the base for all military and scientific expeditions to the Antarctica, and anyone can get a glimpse of this mysterious part of the world by visiting the International Antarctic Centre, the only one of its kind in the world.

Travel Christchurch

From Christchurch, one can go north to Nelson and Marlborough, a region famous for its sunshine, wine and great walking tracks in the Abel Tasman National park. Or, one can go east through Arthur’s Pass into the West Coast, the home of white baits, rainy weather, and the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Most travelers however would opt to head southwest across the scenic Canterbury Plains and the Otago Highlands to the township of Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Home to the Remarkerables and Coronet Peak ski fields, two of the best ski fields in the southern hemisphere, Queenstown is a snow sport heaven especially popular during winter months. Sitting on the banks of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is also popular in summer with a diverse range of water sports available. It is also famous for the range of extreme sports that it offers, such as bungy jumping, sky diving, white water rafting and jet boating. For the more romantic type, a helicopter ride to the famous Mt Cook is a great way to experience the glorious Southern Alps with your loved ones.

Travel Queenstown

From Queenstown going even further south you reach the Fiordland, a remote part of the South Island with almost no permanent population. At the foot of the Southern Alps and dominated by beautiful fiords (also known as sounds), the Fiordland national park has some of the longest and finest tracks in the world for enthusiastic hikers, presenting unspoiled wilderness, awe-inspiring landscapes and rare wildlife. For the less athletic a cruise down the world famous Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound with snow-capped peaks and amazing waterfalls may be the easiest way to enjoy this wonderful landscape.

Other than what has been listed above, there are still a lot of amazing things you can experience in New Zealand. Be it whale-watching in Kaikorua, the best fish and chips in the French town of Akaroua or the salt water hot spring of Coromandel, there is something for everyone. So come on down to New Zealand and see for yourself what this southern paradise is all about!

Date posted: 9th February, 2015

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